An Ode To Tropes

By | February 15, 2023

Tropes Exist Everywhere In Every Story That’s Told

When you become a diehard fan of a type of media or genre (really any of them), you notice patterns. I’ve spoken before about storytelling patterns in the wider construct of narratives, but what I mean this time is tropes. Tropes are—for those unaware—recurring types of moments/situations/characters/etc. that hold across many, many stories. Sometimes, whole subgenres are almost entirely defined by the tropes they feature.

Let’s take a haunted house story as a classic example. There are creepy dolls, imposing mansions, and worrying paintings. You could probably “direct” a haunted house movie in your head with a little prompting. Or, how about a story about a child who finds an animal (magical or otherwise) that’s injured, and they nurse it back to health? That plot practically writes itself.

Tropes Are The Bones Beneath All Beloved Stories

And while this might annoy some, I find tropes to be a wonderful thing in media. Learning about them has made media so much more fulfilling to watch—like knowing the intricacies of cooking when eating somewhere fancy. I glanced at the recent show Lockwood & Co. (which might get a review once I actually watch it), and from what I can tell, it’s “paranormal investigators” trope soup. Filled to the brim with almost-kisses after danger, the newbie learns the ropes via exposition, and multilayered conspiracies. And that’s almost assuredly why so many like the series.

Tropes are often a big part of why new shows get popular. Stranger Things used nostalgia and tropes simultaneously to renowned effect. Wednesday is made of almost nothing but them—and a lot of people love it for that.

Certain Combinations Instantly Pull In An Audience

Almost everyone I know has a few they can’t resist. Personally, I like the “secret magical/supernatural world” stories like Men in Black or the Percy Jackson books. I love seeing how the secret world is kept secret and the weird ways the supernatural and the mundane interact. I’ve read or watched so many stories in that vein I know the steps—so I’m never surprised—but I like the rhythm.

Tropes are like favorite songs in so many ways. You can sing along to them for the fiftieth time with abundant joy. I am and always will be a fan of originality and new takes on established things, but sometimes—just sometimes—familiar tropes are exactly what’s needed for a good viewing/reading/listening experience. If you haven’t already, try to find the tropes you like (and for ease of searching find out if they have a catchy name). They can be a ticket to finding your next comfort media—or maybe even your new favorite thing.

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